GUELPH — C.J. Gable scored two touchdowns while Henry Burris eclipsed 300 yards passing, as a first-quarter explosion led the Ticats to a 37-14 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday afternoon in Guelph.
Bombers quarterback Max Hall was taken out of the game and did not return after injuring his hand on the game’s opening drive, and the Bombers failed to overcome a 17-0 first-quarter deficit with quarterbacks Buck Pierce and Justin Goltz calling the shots.
It was the Ticats’ third straight win, moving them to within two points of the East Division-leading Toronto Argonauts.
The Ticats set the tone on the game’s opening possession with a quick two-and-out on defence, and started on offence with excellent field position after Mike Renaud’s punt went out of bounds.
Burris and the Tabbies wasted no time getting to work, as the veteran found Fantuz over the middle for a first down before hooking up with newcomer Tavoy Austin for a shifty catch-and-run into Bomber territory.
On the very next play the Ticats showed off a new wrinkle in their offence, with Dan LeFevour in the game at quarterback. On a sweep play to Onrea Jones, instead of running the receiver looked downfield to throw.
With Hall out of the game, Pierce took over under centre as the Ticats looked to tilt the field a little more in their favour.
A two-and-out by the Bombers followed by a 41-yard field goal by Luca Congi put the Ticats ahead 10-0, before the Winnipeg offence turned the ball over on a fumble by Michel-Pierre Pontbriand on the Hamilton side of midfield.
The unfortunate start Winnipeg turned from bad to worse, as Burris kept the offence humming on the ensuing drive with completions to Bakari Grant and the elusive Moore, on top of a first down run on a draw play by Gable.
Gable’s catch capped off an 11-play, 79-yard drive spanning 5:01, putting the Ticats in front 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Special debut for Moore
Head Coach Kent Austin compared Tavoy Moore to “Pinball” Clemons this week, and Moore didn’t take long to show why. The 24-year-old had three catches for 67 yards to go with 33 yards on five punt returns, turning heads in his first CFL game.
Just as the Bombers seemed to be settling in and the game slowing down, the Ticats struck suddenly – this time, in the form of a big play on defence.
The Bombers fought back with a 32-yard field goal from Sandro DeAngelis, his second as a Bomber, before the former Ticats kicker added some trickery on the ensuing kickoff with a surprise onside kick.
Winnipeg recovered with ease and moved the ball into scoring range, but again the Blue and Gold came up short of the end zone, forcing DeAngelis back onto the field for a 14-yard field goal. That cut the deficit to 24-6, rounding out the scoring for the first half of play.
The scoring slowed down as the defences settled in to start the third quarter, with the teams exchanging punts and failing to find the end zone through the entire third quarter. Other than a single point earned on a punt through the end zone, there was no scoring in that frame as the Bombers made the switch at quarterback to Goltz from Pierce.
In the fourth after a punt return set the Bombers up in favourable field position, they took advantage of the special teams play to get right back in the ball game. Chad Simpson split the defence with a lightning-quick burst, sprinting 44 yards for his team’s first touchdown of the game to cut the deficit to 27-14 Hamilton.
The Bomber defence responded with a two-and-out, but after a Goltz completion moved the offence up to midfield, the inexperienced pivot was picked off on a first-and-15 play by linebacker Jamall Johnson, who returned the ball into Winnipeg territory.
Winnipeg held Hamilton to a missed field goal by Congi, but despite the stop fizzled out offensively. A late touchdown run by Gable from six yards out sealed the Bombers’ fate, and the Ticats would add a late field goal from Congi from 42 yards out to clinch an impressive 37-14 win over their division rival.
Burris finished the afternoon with 318 passing yards on 23-35 passing with a touchdown, although he was picked off twice. Gable, meanwhile, was the star of the game, accumulating 104 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns thanks to some electrifying runs.
Alex Hall was the bright spot for the Bombers, after earning his 10th and 11th sacks of the season to extend his lead as the CFL’s leading sacker.
The Ticats will be gunning for their fourth straight win next weekend when they visit Travis Lulay and the BC Lions at BC Place. The Bombers, on the other hand, face a stiff challenge as they visit the league’s top-ranked team in the Saskatchewan Roughriders.